Driving Beasts: What Automotive Workers Need to Know About these Historic Muscle Cars
September 19, 2018
Muscle cars include a variety of high-performance vehicles which feature two-door, rear-wheel-drive, and powerful V8 engines. With a streamlined design and high-speed capabilities, muscle cars became popular for everyday use as well as formal and informal drag racing. Although their use declined in the United States during the 1970’s fuel crisis, they are still a passion project for many amateur and professional car collectors. Read on to learn more about classic muscle cars.
Under the Hood: The History of Classic Muscle Cars
Originally, what pushed Americans towards greater high-speed cars was the prohibition period in the 1920’s when alcohol became illegal and bootleggers needed a way to outrun oncoming police. After prohibition ended, ex-bootleggers took their modified cars to the racetrack. These began to feature on street racing circuits into the 1940’s, leading to the introduction of the Oldsmobile Rocket 88. The Oldsmobile Rocket 88 had many features which later became iconic staples of muscle cars, such as a high-compression engine—specifically the presence of a V8 engine—and a lightweight body.
The golden age of many classic muscle cars was the 1960’s due to their low price and increased level of performance, and popular models include the Pontiac GTO, the Chevy Chevelle, and the Ford Mustang. In the latter part of the decade, automakers began to hit the brakes on muscle car production as the market became saturated and companies began to lose money. Compounded with new emissions standards, motor safety rulings, and an oil crisis, the muscle car began to decline in popularity, although today many classic models are sought after by car enthusiasts.
Muscle Cars and Their Engines
Not to be confused with the drink, V8’s involve juice of an entirely different kind. V8’s, as any automotive worker knows, are so-named because they feature 8 cylinders arranged in a V-angle. Additionally, there are two classic V8 crankshaft designs, which operate the pistons in the engine. One design is a single-plane crankshaft, while the other is a cross-plane, which has the benefit of adding balance to a notoriously lightweight style of car. Many car owners who use their muscle car for racing typically use a single-plane crank because it allows for quicker acceleration, unlike a cross-plane, which uses heavy counterweights.
The engine of the Pontiac GTO was a particular game-changer because it ignored GM restrictions on engine size in small cars, and this opened the door for other manufacturers to make similar changes. One of the most iconic cars to feature a V8 was the Dodge Charger, popularized in high-speed movies starring Steve McQueen and Burt Reynolds.
Maintenance and Repairing Muscle Cars after Your Auto Repair Course
One of the simplest issues present in classic car repair is that parts you may need may not be available or easy to get, due to their age. Muscle cars can often have maintenance issues because of their high-performance capabilities, so this may make repairing the original components more difficult. Due to its brief production period and low production numbers, the Pontiac GTO may be the most common classic muscle car to have this issue.
Some cars, however, have proved to be so popular that they have been in continuous manufacturing, such as the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro. This makes finding parts a lot easier. Of course, no matter what classic muscle car you choose to work on, one thing is certain: for graduates of an auto repair course, this kind of passion project can be a truly fun as well as challenging experience.
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